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Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It Paperback – June 21, 1961

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (June 21, 1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385081413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385081412
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,474,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on August 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the story of the development and refinement of evolutionary thought in the Nineteenth Century. The author allows a little slop into the end of the Eighteenth Century with such as Hutton and Buffon, and a bit into the Twentieth with Alfred Russell Wallace's last years, but basically this is the story of how the medieval view of the Great Chain of Being coming into sudden being along with the earth 6000-odd years ago evolved into an altogether grander but not-remotely-Biblical view of time, geology, life, and change.
Charles Darwin is, of course, the centerpiece of such a discussion, but by no means crowds out consideration of other thinkers and workers. In terms of space, Darwin does not take up terribly much of the book, but many of the ideas and discoveries made before him are highlighted because of the use he is to make of them, and the loss of Mendel's work is seen as ironic because it was not there when Darwin needed it. It seems to be Eiseley's position that Darwin was not making a leap that others could not make, or had not made, but that, rather, he was positioned to carry the new paradigm of natural selection through an opposition that could not combat his thorough preparation and his dedicated cadre of younger naturalists. The time was ripe, and Darwin struck. It is ironic that he was, in later editions of his book, forced to revert to rather Lamarkian explanations of organic change because of the physicists. They just wouldn't give him an Earth old enough to allow his leisurely form of natural selection by the pruning of occasional random variations to create, eventually, the great variety of life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on March 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loren Eiseley's DARWIN'S CENTURY is an interesting survey of the men whose scientific investigations led to advances in studies in biology and, interestingly enough, physics. Eiseley presents a readable account of the complex background to Darwin's work, and Eiseley examines the Darwin's contemporaries and those benefitted from his work as well as those who enhanced it.

Eiseley presents Darwin's work with the 19th century intellectual background. The book makes clear that Darwin's work leading to the his theory of evolution was not an isolated venture devoid of other scientific work. One must note that there signficances studies in geology, and with the rapid industrialization in Europe and the United States, the mining industries led not only to the extraction of natural resources but the discovery of the remains of extinct species.

Charles Darwin was not the only one who noticed the possibilities extinct species. However, he was one of the first to carefully investigate why species survived. His work led to the realization that within surviving species there were noticable differences in color, habits, etc. This led to Darwin's ORIGINS OF THE SPECIES which was published in 1859. Darwin may have had this published book "prematurely" in hopes of prempting others who were doing similiar work.

Eiseley's explanation of Gregor Mendal's (1822-1884)pioneer work in genetics is a clear explation of both Mendal's work and the historical importance of genetics which helped the Darwinists in that it gave them a theorhetically mechanism for changes in species. The advances in the study of genetics in recent history indicates just how important Mendal's work was.

Eiseley also gives a readable explation of some of the developments in atomic physics.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Jones on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anthropologist Loren Eiseley is best known for his poetic essays on evolution, biology, and human nature.
_Darwin's Century_ may be a leap for fans of this work. It's a scholarly work, written while Eiseley was wearing his Professor hat instead of his Philosopher cap. It's a comprehensive (but very readable) look at the intellectual climate in which Charles Darwin was educated and scentific traditions of the time.
Like any good history of science, _Darwin's Century_ clears away a lot of the mythological gleam surrounding Darwin's great realization. It shows us that, despite the genuine controversy the publication of the theory engendered, that _evolution evolved_. The seeds of the idea were all around.
Indeed, much of the ideological "flavor" we associate with evolution arises not from the theory itself, but were inherited from these ur-notions, such as the Great Chain of Being and Malthus's writings.
Put this one on your list if you enjoy the work of writers like Stephen Jay Gould and Freeman Dyson.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on July 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Newton said, "If I have seen so far, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants." The same could be said for Charles Darwin, as Eisley shows in _Darwin's Century_.
It is a fascinating read, to be sure. I had always assumed that Dawin's _Origin of Species_ and _Decent of Man_ were discoveries made by a brilliant flash of intuition and genius. Eisley clarifies this misconception, demonstrating the ideas and theories that influenced Darwin - from Buffon and Lamarck to Malthus and Linneaus were critical in the development of his theory. Of course, all of these naturalists were "close" to evolution, but it was Darwin who managed to connect the dots, and it was Darwin's genius that made sense of it all. However, the theories of natural selection, species variation and adaptation did not occur in an academic vacuum. Eisely does a great job of showing this.
The only criticism I have is that it is written more for the "scholarly set" - maybe as a supplementary text for a college class rather than for the general public. This is not a weakness, but certainly something the lay reader should be aware of going into this remarkable book.
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